What is net phone service, or VOIP?

Discover what net phone services are and how it will change how phone conversations are conducted.

We Know: All About Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP)

What is net phone service (VOIP)?

Net phone service, or voice over internet protocol (VOIP), converts traditional phone signals from analog to digital format. The signals travel over high speed networks rather than telephone wires and works like a normal phone call. Net phone services require a broadband carrier and phones capable of handling digital calls.

How does VOIP work?

Traditional phone lines use analog signals to transmit calls from one location to another. Many broadband companies now offer phone services which use high speed internet connections to transmit calls. To enable VOIP, the audio signals must be translated into codec. Special software called a codec takes a signal and either compresses or decompresses it into a digital format. The more compression that is used, the poorer the quality of the sound, and the less Internet bandwidth it uses. Less compression produces better quality sound, but the data signal uses more Internet bandwidth which may cause delays.

What equipment is needed for VOIP to work?

VOIP phone service requires a high-speed internet connection, such as cable internet or DSL services. A digital phone may be purchased, or a regular phone may be used with a special adapter that translates analog signals to digital signals. The special adapter can be taken anywhere and used where a broadband connection exists.

Who can I call?

VOIP phone service works as any other traditional phone service. It really depends on the service carrier. Some carriers provide net phone services for a flat fee each month, allowing users to call anybody in the country. Other services only allow callers to connect with users on the same service, while charging for calls that go beyond approved networks. Calls can be made to users with VOIP phone service or to users with analog phone carriers.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using VOIP?

The advantages of using net phone services include:

  • Cost - One high speed line covers cable, internet, and phone services so you don't pay for an additional telephone line.
  • No additional telephone line is needed.
  • If you purchase an digital adapter, you can literally take your phone line with you and use it with any existing broadband connection.

The disadvantages of using net phone services include:

  • Internet commerce is unregulated and anything goes.
  • The VOIP is only as good as your broadband service carrier. If the cable company goes down, so does your phone line. During power outages, phone service also becomes unavailable.
  • Because it is an emerging technology, widespread connections may be a problem, and additional surcharges may apply for calls outside of a service area. Again, this depends on the broadband service. Also, some services may not handle faxing.
  • Privacy - digital lines travel over networks, which may be hacked.

Where can I get VOIP?

Check with your local broadband carriers, such as your cable company. National carriers such as Yahoo, AOL, SBC, or Verizon also offer VOIP services. Also check out the new independent players, including Skype and Vonage.

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